Urban takes readers on an amazing journey in this exceptional collection of short stories. She travels from a nameless hospital in the title story, where a young woman is trying to understand how her once perfectly healthy younger sister could be slowly dying of a tumor, to a Tennessee bar, where an up-and-coming country western singer yearns to make a baby with her unsuspecting boyfriend (“The Memoirs of Sam Wesson”), to an Evanston, Ill., center for healing, where an emotionally damaged employee is on the cusp of recovering from the death of her beloved adopted sister (“Planet Joy”). The author has an uncanny ability to explore relationships, love, and loss in a fresh and original way. In “Trying to Find a Corndog in Tompkins County,” an Arkansas woman, pregnant with her first child, contemplates fleeing the husband who raped her in order to claim the future she was meant to have. In “Welcome to the Holy Land,” an exotic dancer seeks redemption in a Tampa religious theme park, having fallen in love with the actor who plays Jesus in one of the exhibits. These are powerful stories told by a strong voice and written with vivid precision, leaving readers wondering what happens to the characters after their stories end. (Apr.)
Winner of the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award for Fiction. The ten stories in this haunting and hilarious collection offer a how-to manual for dealing with love, lies, and loneliness. Sam Wesson, an up-and-coming country-western singer, plots to get pregnant without her boyfriend’s consent, while Dacey, already pregnant, confronts her cheating husband over her secret checking account. Andrea rescues a stray dog to avoid facing her complicated human relationships. Sarah, an exotic dancer, longs for employment at a religious theme park, and Amelia dreams of creating impossible bonsai. Whether facing life-threatening illness or life-threatening loss, these characters scheme in humble, funny, sympathetic, and outrageous ways to find an etiquette that will deliver them from disappointment and shield them from crushing grief.
Publisher's Weekly (starred review)